High tribute at Swiss centenary

5 October 2003

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland — Baha'is from all parts of Switzerland and guests from 26 other countries gathered last month for centenary celebrations in this scenic mountain town.

The festivities marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Baha'is in this country were held here because of the town's historical link to the Faith.

Interlaken was dear to Shoghi Effendi, the head of the Baha'i Faith from 1921 to 1957. On vacations here, he found a rare respite from his heavy workload.

The Interlaken celebrations followed an official reception for dignitaries held at the national Baha'i center in Bern on 23 September 2003 during which a senior Swiss political leader paid a high tribute to the Swiss Baha'i community.

"On the occasion of your jubilee celebration I congratulate you for the ideas you stand for and to which you are committed: the unity of humankind, world peace, tolerance towards people of other cultural, linguistic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds," said the Federal Chancellor, Annemarie Huber-Hotz.

"I am here because I share your ideals and consider your efforts for their implementation as essential steps on the path towards a more peaceful world," Mrs. Huber-Hotz said.

"Our world needs people with a vision and a compass that are oriented beyond our own borders, and by borders I mean not only geographical, but ethnic, social and religious borders."

The Swiss Baha'is presented the chancellor with a copy of "The Baha'i World, 2001-2002", the annual record of Baha'i activities and perspectives.

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The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Switzerland, 2003.

The major daily newspaper of Bern, "Der Bund", published an extensive article about the reception, whose guests included government officials, parliamentarians, and representatives of non-governmental and religious organizations.

The centenary events that followed in Interlaken on 4 and 5 October, celebrated the achievements of the country's Baha'i community in the first century of its existence.

Swiss Baha'is reside now in more than 220 locations in the country. A community of cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity, it comprises members from 60 national backgrounds.

Of the 57 people who have served on the National Spiritual Assembly throughout its 50-year history, 29 were women, 28 men, reflecting a commitment to the equality of women and men, a principle of the Baha'i Faith.

The International Baha'i Bureau was established in Switzerland in 1925, beginning the longstanding Baha'i association with international organizations, including the League of Nations and the United Nations. The Baha'i International Community maintains an office in Geneva.

The guests of honor among the 450 participants at the centenary celebrations in Interlaken included Ali Nakhjavani, a former member of the Universal House of Justice, and his wife, Violette.

Participants at the centennial enjoyed various artistic presentations, and heard about the history of the Baha'i community in Switzerland, including that 'Abdu'l-Baha briefly visited Switzerland in September 1911, spending time at Lake Geneva.

Ariane Schaller related the stories of her grandparents, Joseph de Bons, from Switzerland, and his French-American wife, Edith, the first Baha'is to reside in Switzerland.

Also present at the centennial celebrations was Annemarie Kruger, the granddaughter of scientist and humanitarian, Auguste Forel (1848-1931), a Swiss Baha'i and a figure of such renown that his image has appeared on a Swiss postage stamp and bank note.

Nils Semle recounted stories of the contributions of his father, Fritz Semle, who accepted the Faith in 1920, and was elected a member of the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Switzerland in 1962.

Also participating was a senior member of the community, Mrs. Renee Bahy-Vuichet, who joined the community in 1949, and who has been an active promoter of education for children and the advancement of women in both Switzerland and Iran.

A message from the Universal House of Justice to the participants said in part: "May these events inspire all the participants and, beyond them, the devoted members of the Baha'i community in every part of the Confederation, with an increased awareness of the momentousness of their task and of the blessings that are showered upon every determined endeavor for the progress of the Cause."